Saturday, 27 October 2018

Jack-in-the-Box

This is probably one of the hardest puzzles I’m going to write about in this blog – not because it’s difficult to solve (although it definitely is!), but because there is so much absolutely fantastic “stuff” that I can’t talk about because it would totally spoil the surprise for other puzzlers getting to play with this puzzle… so let’s see how I can talk about the former without committing the heinous crime of the latter. 

Jack Krijnen has been designing and making puzzles for years. I look forward to chatting to him at the Dutch Cube Day each year (something I was gutted to miss this year!) as he always has some wonderfully made little gems available at stupidly cheap prices – it seems he makes puzzles for the love of it, not for the money…

Over the years I’ve acquired several lovely little burrs and a couple of his burr sets, all in Jack’s own unique dinky form factor, as well as a number of fun n-ary puzzles from him. 

Earlier this year he sent up the bat-signal that he was working on his first puzzle box design… several milliseconds later I registered my interest. A short while later the Royal Mail delivered a box, somewhat less than lovingly, to my front door… sadly it appeared that someone had played football with the contents of the package, although on the outside, there didn’t seem to be much damage… inside however, quite a lot of the detailing that must have taken Jack absolute hours, had been reduced to wooden scraps. Fearful that I might damage the box, I exchanged a few emails with Jack and he encouraged me to puzzle on – so I did, albeit with a slightly heavy heart.

I made a little progress quite rapidly, not entirely as a result of the damage, but it probably provided a couple of clues that others unafflicted might not have seen quite as readily…

I found myself having blown the bloody doors off the thing, with a couple of tools in hand, and no apparent way to proceed… my little metal rod and my wooden key didn’t seem to be very useful, even though I’d found some keyhole-shaped orifices. 

At this point things sort of came to a halt – I went off to IPP38, spent a few weeks with my puzzling friends and didn’t think much about the puzzle box gently mocking my inability to progress – while somewhere in the back of my mind I had a niggling doubt about it perhaps being damaged internally as well…

At this point my friend Nigel asks how I’m doing on it – he’s stuck too, it transpires…I can’t help him much and over the course of a few days he gets a nudge or two and once the dam has broken, rapidly becomes a massive fan of this puzzle… telling me along the way that I NEED to SOLVE this thing – because I WILL LOVE IT!

I need several more nudges from him; in fact it’s probably fair to say that for one specific part I need encouragement to keep trying – and indeed to simplify what I’m trying to do! Once I’m through that bit, an entire new world opens up in front of me – quite literally, and I understand exactly why Nigel (and many others) are being so darn encouraging about it… the next phase comes as a wonderful surprise and it’s an absolute delight to solve…

…leading to the final reveal, and something I think I shall refer to as Jack’s Revenge on puzzlers for solving his puzzle box – inside there is an 18-piece burr, unassembled known as the “Assembler’s Challenge” – with good reason! Seeing where the pieces need to go isn’t the main challenge here – physically getting them there using only the single pair of paws most of us are endowed with, IS however, a MAJOR CHALLENGE.

I am a huge fan… there’s a bit toward the start of the solution that is tough – well I think it’s tough – some of my puzzling friends have almost breezed through it without slowing down (yup, Louis!) whereas others have needed the nudges I required… but everybody loves the reveal and the bit in the middle – that is superb. 

Jack – that is an excellent debut puzzle box… I hope you’re suitably encouraged to create many more designs!

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